Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter in the Boatyard

Easter came a little early for me this year, in mid-March, to be imprecise, in another car ride with brother Pete…
We had just finished our thread on childhood obesity and victim mentality—and were moving into the ‘blame game’—the “It’s not my fault!” regarding anything  and everything, even eating habits. 
“Bloomberg can’t get his soda restriction through in New York—people want the right to kill themselves with soda!” 
“Just like the spiritual life.  People want to do whatever they want to do and say they can’t be responsible—they were born that way; Adam sinned—it’s his fault!” 
“Never heard that one before!” Peter commented.
“Yep,” I replied, dismissing it.  “It’s a paper argument.  The second Adam dealt with the first Adam’s fault.”     
“The second Adam?” says Pete, moving into the passing lane.
“Yep,” I repeated, and dug out my iphone to pull up the passage on Glo-Bible. 
“Wow - never heard that before either!  We’re back to, ‘Read the label’!” 
 LOL…and back to vegan eating…
“Imagine if the Last Supper was vegan… when the disciples ask, 'What is it?' Jesus would respond, 'It’s plant-based!'”
“I think we need a cartoon series…”
“He did have a lamb though…He was the Passover Lamb…hmmm….”
Like I said, we jump around the planet…

Somehow we got from there into themes of seeds and immaterialism, the teachings and philosophy of George Berkeley, who Peter is researching for his next book.
“Right after the second Adam bit, Paul writes about our bodies as seeds,” I mused.  Back to the bible app…this time to read about the perishable and the imperishable…
Peter pulled over into the scenic overlook for Mystic Seaport.  “That’s so beautiful,” he said softly.  “Don’t you think that’s beautiful?”  Yep…and we had an Easter moment…
"The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;
it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory;
it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;
it is sown a natural body, it is raised a natural body.
"If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body...
the first man Adam became a living being;
the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.
the spiritual did not come first, but the natural,
and after that the spiritual.

"The first man was of the dust of the earth,
the second man from heaven.
As was the earthly man,
so are those who are of the earth;
and as is the man from heaven,
so also are those who are of heaven...

"flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,
nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable...
the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable,
and the mortal with immortality.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable,
and the mortal with immortality,
then the saying...will come true:
'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'

'Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?'

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

1 Cor. 15:21, 42-57

Happy Easter from the Boatyard!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Conversations with Peter

My brother Pete and I talk often about books and writing; he is the novelist, I am the poet.  He is also a chef, and we have both recently migrated over to whole-foods-plant-based diets, so food enters the conversation as often as syntax and punctuation.  Car rides are usually the setting, as we fly around the northeast when I'm in town, visiting various family, friends, clam shacks and vegan eateries. 
You’d really have to be with us to capture the full flavor of our ‘car talks’–Peter is one of those rare individuals who can actually keep up with my brain as it leaps around the planet.  But here’s a glimpse ( I should add, we are often on the subject of spirituality as well, so brace yourself for our typical trinitarian convergence of food, literature and God):
It was snowing as we left the certified Kosher Korean vegetarian restaurant in Queens NY.  We crossed the street to an Asian market to pick up some things for dinner with our sister in CT.  And then we had a 90 minutes drive...the perfect setting for a perfect storm of conversation...
I was talking of the impact the new diet was having on me spiritually—to my astonishment for some reason, when it actually makes logical sense.  Animal cruelty, human slavery, manipulation and corruption in the food industries and pharmaceutical companies, greed and gluttony, laziness and passivity—all stuff to test your spiritual fiber and moral spunk, right?
My body seemed to be physically engaged in a new spiritual integrity; spirituality less an intellectual or even a heart exercise, with a neighborly gesture thrown in now and then.  I am, after all, my brother’s keeper. 
“What about obesity?”  Peter asked, in response to a rabbit trail down the hole of institutional school diets, with which he is too familiar.  Someone had recently chastised him for his lack of sympathy and compassion for school boards who would not change school diets to healthier choices.  “I feel for the children, but at some point families and school boards have to take responsibility for health—they should read the labels!  My friend disagreed—said they are not to blame.  I think that’s a victim mentality talking.  YOU HAVE TO READ THE LABEL!!!  But they don’t want to…” 
 “Yeah, it’s the culinary equivalent of “Read the Bible!”
“It’s like people who say they aren’t sinners, and they’re not to blame—it’s Adam and Eve’s fault.  I tell people to read the owner’s manual—the Bible—but they don’t want to!”
“Owner’s manual?”
“Yeah, it’s not really all that complicated when you jump into it, it just takes time to learn the ropes, like vegan eating.” 
“So…the Bible is like…the label?!”
“Yeah – you have to read the label!”

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Boatman's Daughter

Book contract time!
As you may or may not have picked up from the social media, or being anywhere near me in recent weeks, Finishing Line Press has accepted my second manuscript, The Boatman’s Daughter, for publication.  Yahoo!!!

After the initial euphoria, wheels went into motion on all the myriad tasks required to bring a book to publication—much easier the second time around, knowing what to expect and how to read a book contract!  
I’ve been in a whirlwind of paperwork, updating mailing lists, printing labels, and selecting cover artwork (once again, artwork from my late uncle Jack is accepted), followed by trips to Staples and the post office, and to the nearest body of water for an updated author’s photo…all in the mail, on time, this week.  Ouf!

I have a few last tasks to finish this month, and then I’ll be free until approximately May. 20, when advance copy/pre-publication sales start (May 20 - July 5).  Mark your calendars!  As you may remember, press run depends on how many books are sold in this period.  I am ‘paid’ in free copies; the higher the press run, the more free copies I receive.  From sales of those, I build my fortune...

Release date is scheduled for  Aug. 30, 2013, just in time for Labor Day.

So I’m sprinting, excited, energized, and tired, if you can be all those things at the same time.  The Boatman's Daughter is sequel to Poems from the Boatyard, and I'm so glad Finishing Line Press accepted it; sequels need to be timely, right?!

Onto endorsements on the book!  One of those is a developing story...if indeed it comes about, I'll be blogging about that next time or two!  Stay tuned and get ready for that magic link on May 20!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

There Really is a Tree

Why would anyone work as hard as Tolkien did on his masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings? 

“Before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished; its leaves opening, its branches growing and bending in the wind that Niggle had so often felt or guessed, and yet had so often failed to catch.  He gazed at the Tree, and slowly he lifted his arms and opened them wide.  ‘It is a gift!’ he said.”

And so Niggle's grand vision, of which he had only been able to produce a fraction, completed itself in the land he arrived in after death.  Tolkien, like my father, believed gifts were from God, and so every great endeavor had an eternal quality to it.  And as Keller writes, “…every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever…"  

I'm not sure how much my father consciously understood about this matter, but I believe this is why he continued to build a boat.  He was a devout man, and understood calling, gift and vocation within a Christian context.  If he didn't completely understand the dynamic, he surely 'got' it in some part of himself.  Somehow our work, and how we do it, matters forever.         

“Niggle was assured that the tree he had ‘felt and guessed’ was ‘a true part of creation’ and that even the small bit of it he had unveiled to people on earth had been a vision of the True.”

Tolkien too believed his work mattered forever, and so he wrote.  And this little gem of a story unblocked him to complete his masterpiece.  He understood he only got a leaf, but that leaf was necessary for the tree. 

What is your leaf?!  

And you understand your leaf and your job may not be the same thing, right?!  Your leaf is what you were born to do; your job supports you maybe, so you can produce your leaf.   

“Artists and entrepreneurs can identify very readily with Niggle.  They work from visions, often very big ones, of a world they can uniquely imagine.  Few realize even a significant percentage of their vision, and even fewer claim to have come close…

“But really—everyone is Niggle.  Everyone imagines accomplishing things, and everyone finds him or herself largely incapable of producing them.”

Whatever our work, we don’t always succeed, do we?  We start out to build a boat, write a book, build a city, find the cure for cancer, or overturn a social injustice.  Then we encounter the snags, the shipwrecks, the life-altering stuff and the minutiae.  We are ground to a halt, disillusioned, and have yet to fill out our tax returns.  The water heater goes, the gas prices rise, and we have to put our aging parents in nursing homes.  In between we may hammer a nail, write a new poem, or bake some cookies.  Occasionally we may feel we produced something of value. And then we get laid off. 

But it's worth it.  Isn’t this the stuff of life?  Maybe we only get to do a leaf, but do a leaf. 
Because there really is a Tree.

There is a future healed world that [God] will bring about, and your work is showing it (in part) to others.”—Keller

(Excerpts taken from Every Good Endeavor.)